In his book, Francis of Assisi, G.K. Chesterton speaks movingly of the complete “spiritual overturn in which complete humiliation becomes complete holiness or happiness” that Francis underwent in his conversion from a hedonistic young man seeking worldly glory to the joyous beggar we all recognise, who embraced Lady Poverty as his only bride.
Today’s readings illustrate the same radical proposal coming first from the lips of Jesus in the Gospel, and then echoed by Paul in the first reading. What Francis stumbled upon was not something new at all, but the logic of the Cross, which Paul reminds us will be a “stumbling block” unless we allow God to transform our vision and see the world in a new way. Then we will come to understand how Paul can claim that it is in fact “is the power and the wisdom of God.” (1Cor 1:18)
It’s easy to empathise with James and John and their mother today, when they seek glory in a very human way – seats in heaven on either side of Jesus. Without Jesus showing us any other way, we all naturally seek what seems to be best for us: power, glory, riches…
Jesus’ response tells us that God sees the world differently, inviting us to the way of humility and self-giving love. This way is hard, and its road is narrow. But those who choose it follow in the footsteps of James and John and Paul and Francis… and Jesus!
Lord Jesus, give me new eyes. Help me to see the treasure that you invite me to embrace, even as I hesitate before all that it comes wrapped in. Give me a deep capacity to trust you, as James and John did, and follow you, even to the Cross.